What is Simple Living

One of the very natural by-products of a long-standing yoga practice is the heightening of consciousness in all realms. Many people find themselves adjusting their diet along with their mindset as their understanding of the mind/body/spirit connection continues to broaden. Over the years I’ve found myself moving towards a plant-based diet that focuses on whole foods over anything processed. I’ve become more socially conscious and concerned about my community and the world as a whole. I’ve found myself cringing more and more at the consumerism that is rampant in our lives today and have taken steps towards reducing my reliance on material goods. These were slow changes and slow realizations over the years but 18 months ago when I gave birth to my daughter all of these concepts were suddenly amplified in importance. Now, my mindset and the way I navigate the complexities of modern life will impact my entire family and this sweet little girl that I’m raising. So, if I want to raise a healthy, happy, socially conscious little being I feel compelled to really understand what it is that is important to me. And so, here is my first crack at writing down (and thus, in a way, committing to) the principles of Simple Living that are important to me and my family.

Simple living can mean many things. There is no one way to live simply. What is really exciting is that there are people all over the world right now standing up and defining their own paths of simple living. And so, for your consideration, here are some of the ways that my family is attempting to “pare down” in order to be happier.

For our family simple living means the following:

1. Living within our means. This is the hardest one for two reasons. First of all, we’re programmed to want more, more, more. We’re hard-wired to want what our friends have and what people in magazines and on tv have. We’re marketed to at practically every moment of every day with the sole purpose of convincing us to buy more. Having a child amplifies this 100 fold. The second reason that this principle is the hardest is that it has the most dire consequences if it’s not respected. Our family does not function well when we are in debt, or when income is scarce or uncertain, or when we have things we need or want to do but no plan in place to make it happen. And so, we strive to live within our means. In recent months stress, uncertainty, and busyness have all played a part in us slipping away from our financial plan. To remedy this I’m working on a shiny new 2014 Family Financial Plan using tools from Gail Vaz Oxlade. She has a great budget planning tool on her website.

2. Being in nature / getting back to the Earth. Much of the modern day stuff we surround ourselves with serves as a box over our experience of life. We need to get outdoors to reclaim our sense of simplicity. When we’re indoors we’re bombarded with screens and advertising and stale air and stuff. But when we’re outside surrounded by trees, ocean, air, earth it’s very difficult to need or want anything more. Regular (daily) trips outside are necessary for keeping us connected. And then longer stints of time at the cabin or camping or hiking help to refresh our connection to nature.

3. Choosing happiness. As much as possible my husband and I choose happiness. Being happy is a choice and it’s a practice. You can choose to see the good in the world and to enjoy your experiences for what they are (rarely perfect). You can also choose to make a change when things in your life are not serving your practice of happiness. (I know that this is a very simplistic view. And i know that there are terrible things that happen all the time that make choosing happiness near impossible. I’m talking about in general, most of the time, when life is chugging along in all it’s wonderful and comfortable mediocrity). Choose to be happy, choose to see the good. Rules to live by in the Simple Life.

4. Buying less & buying wisely. In short, this means reducing consumerism and the drive to want more (see point #1 – most of us can’t afford to have everything anyway. And point #2 – get outside instead of filling your house with more stuff. And point #3 – be happy with what you’ve got! ). When we do buy goods and services, we do our best to buy local, sustainable and fair. I have a particular interest in this concept as it relates to food. I buy whole foods (preferably local) and our family avoids processed food most of the time. We planted our first garden this past Spring and hope to grow even more of our own food next year.

5. Increasing self-sufficiency aka knowing how to do stuff. This is last on the list because it’s probably the one that’s newest to our family. Of course, we’ve always known how to do *stuff*. I can create a blog and reconcile a bank statement and organize a schedule of employees and write a business plan. My husband can program high-tech software, operate a highly sophisticated password protection system that ensures nobody (not even his wife) will ever figure out his banking passwords, and keep track of his daily hiking/running/skiing/snowshoeing kilometers in meticulous fashion. But I’m talking about old fashioned *stuff*. We want to know how to do the important day-to-day tasks that keep a household operating. We want to move towards an urban homestead lifestyle (or really, a true homestead away from the urban landscape…but that’s another discussion).  A few things on the “to learn” list: baking bread, making cheese, canning and preserving, growing vegetables, keeping chickens, building structures (greenhouses, sheds) and furniture, sewing, knitting, composting, homeschooling and more. I think of this category as including the tasks that seem at first to be very complex and time consuming but that turn out to make your life more simple in the end. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as learning to do something for yourself that you previously had to pay somebody to do. And of course we’re not alone on this journey – I know many people who’ve recently put in raised beds for growing veggies or are contemplating getting some backyard chickens to produce eggs for their family. And just a couple of weeks ago we drove through downtown St. John’s behind a car with a goat in the backseat! A GOAT! That was a sight. I’m really excited to keep learning about self-sufficiency and to learn from the many wonderful people in our community who have knowledge and wisdom to share.

So that’s it for now. I’m sure we will continue to refine this list. What would you change about this list for your own family? How do you live (or envision living) a more simple life?

18 thoughts on “What is Simple Living

    1. meaghanburridge Post author

      Thanks April! I am a little obsessed with tiny homes. I want a yurt actually. I could totally live in a yurt. I’ll check out that blog! As for knitting…I have two projects that I started this time last year and never finished. Maybe 2014 is the year 🙂

  1. Kim

    Choose happiness. YES!

    I love this post, Meaghan. I agree with ALL of these principles and want to apply them too. Some are more difficult than others, like you said…

  2. Kim

    Re: baking bread. Have you tried the no-knead (Jim Lahey) method? Easy and yummy.
    And re: canning. I recently got some lessons on this lost art from a former (retired) colleague. Such a great skill to have. There’s a site called foodinjars that is a great resource.

    1. meaghanburridge Post author

      I have literally tried nothing when it comes to baking bread because I’m too scared of failure LOL I’ll add the above to my “list of research resources” in preparation for baking bread 😉

  3. kippylouwho

    I like these ideas for living simply and we are trying to abide by them more and more (though it’s hard). One thing I don’t know how to to reconcile, is my love of travel. Yes, I like local travel too, but I have a bad case of wanderlust and I want to see the world. How to reconcile living simply with traveling?

    1. meaghanburridge Post author

      I definitely feel that there is value in travel. Both on an individual level and for the world at large. We need to understand each other and the best way to do that is to meet each other! There are ways to travel that uphold a “simple” philosophy. And there are (much more prominent and popular) ways that support excess and touristy ignorance. I have a feeling you and your family are doing it right 🙂

  4. Crystal

    Great post Meg. Lucy will thank you guys for raising her this way! For us, simple living is a daily practice but it’s well worth it. I especially like #2 – it’s amazing how an hour spent with trees and fresh air can completely transform the day!

  5. Mary Jo

    Meaghan, you have come to this so much younger than I did. Trying to get the rest of the family on board when everyone is “grown” is difficult. (If not impossible) Lucy is lucky you are committed to these things now! Keep writing…I’m enjoying your thoughts/comments immensely!

  6. Michelle Lacroix

    I just read (and loved) your blog post on simple living.

    Dominic and I strive to do the same, we’ve spent the past few years reducing the amount of “stuff” we have, and at the same time are trying to reduce what we bring into our home. We’re trying to make sure that the products we do purchase are made by ethical (and, if possible) local companies. We embrace a whole foods, plant based lifestyle and make a lot of things from scratch now (kimchi, bread, ketchup etc.) I am homeschooling the kids, and love being able to spend this time with them. The more we simplify how we live the better I feel. It’s a work in progress, of course, but I feel incredibly grateful to have a partner who supports and encourages me every step of the way. It makes a real difference, as this way of living is definitely not the norm!

    Finding other like minded parents makes such a difference, it’s so nice to know that we are not alone in this!

  7. Sue

    Happy lazy Sunday Meaghan!
    So glad Crystal mentioned your blog to me!
    I really enjoyed this post on simple living – a task that seems near impossible in downtown Toronto some days!
    Your comment about getting outside instead of filling our homes with more stuff is PERFECT for me right now! Since I moved recently, I STILL haven’t purchased a couch or table & chairs yet it doesn’t even bother me! Not having a tv for “entertainment” and a comfy couch to curl up on is encouraging me to read more and get outside. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, all my needs are met! I have everything I need and more!
    Thanks for confirming what’s inside all of us: we already have everything we need;)
    Take care!

    1. meaghanburridge Post author

      Hi Sue! Your home sounds perfect – and healthy! There’s a whole “furniture-free” movement that some people adhere to – couches, chairs, beds, pillows, etc. can all be detrimental to our health. So rather than procrastinating on your purchases, you’re actually part of an underground healthy living philosophy! 😉

  8. Titia

    Hi Meaghan – Nice post! You just reminded me… I was driving home from Cape Spear on the weekend and saw a couple walking goats! On South Side Road! I did a complete double take… They were wearing red jackets and were awfully big for dogs, then I saw horns, and pointy ears and hoofs!

    Thanks for writing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s